My Week in Manga: August 12-August 18, 2013

My News and Reviews

Two reviews, and some big news! First up was my review of Blade of the Immortal, Volume 24: Massacre by Hiroaki Samura. As you might suspect from the title, it’s a rather bloody volume. It also features what I think is one of the best visually executed battles in the series. I also reviewed Yukio Mishima’s novel Forbidden Colors which is a bit twisted but extremely engrossing and very good. Like his earlier novel Confessions of a Mask, it deals with homosexual themes and includes autobiographical elements.

As for the big news! Over the weekend Experiments in Manga celebrated it’s third anniversary and I wrote quite a lengthy post about it. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here’s the really important bit: I am delighted to announce that in the very near future Experiments in Manga will be joining the Manga Bookshelf network of blogs!

I was traveling quite a bit last week (a couple of my friends were getting married), so I’m a little out of touch when it comes to some of the most recent manga news. However, there is one thing that I want to be sure to pass along. I personally don’t read much manga digitally, but Organization of Anti-Social Geniuses has a fantastic post looking at all the legal ways to read digital manga in 2013.

Quick Takes

The Last of the Mohicans by Shigeru Sugiura. The Last of the Mohicans is the first volume in editor Ryan Holmberg’s Ten-Cent Manga series, exploring classic manga influenced by popular culture and comics from the United States. In addition to the manga itself, the volume also includes an article by Sugiura and an extensive essay by Holmberg which puts The Last of the Mohicans into context. For me, this was probably the greatest appeal of the volume. I more or less enjoyed the manga, but I valued to an even greater extent learning about its history and Sugiura’s influences. I don’t know that The Last of the Mohicans will necessarily entice casual manga readers, but for those interested in comics history it’s great.

Math Girls Manga, Volume 1 written by Hiroshi Yuki and illustrated by Mika Hisaka. Based on the Math Girls series of novels, the manga focuses a little more on the romance and a little less on the math, but it still can teach a thing or two about it. Unfortunately, errors slipped into the English edition and some of the mathematical symbols are missing. Seeing as Math Girls is about, well, math, this is somewhat problematic. But if you can ignore that, Math Girls is a rather delightful and charming manga. Math lovers in particular will appreciate it, but as with the novels it’s possible to skip over the math-intensive sections and just enjoy the story. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of the Math Girls manga, but I suspect there won’t be another volume released anytime soon.

Strawberry Chan, Volumes 1-2 by Ai Morinaga. I picked up Morinaga’s Strawberry Chan manga on a whim. The series consists of two volumes, The Gorgeous Life of Strawberry Chan and The Super Cool Life of Strawberry Chan. The manga is fairly episodic and each chapter is very short. The titular Strawberry Chan is a small pet frog owned by Taro Akiyoshi, a sadistic high school student who delights in tormenting him. Despite his cruelty, Strawberry Chan adores his master. And then there’s Taro’s roommate who’s legitimately in love with Strawberry Chan and a masochistic classmate who just wants Taro to abuse him instead of the frog. Strawberry Chan is utterly ridiculous, random, and all sorts of wrong. I loved it.

Three Wolves Mountain by Bohra Naono. So far, only two of Naono’s manga have been released in English. Yokai’s Hunger largely frustrated me but I thoroughly enjoyed Three Wolves Mountain; it’s easily my favorite manga out of the two. It’s an odd mix of comedy, drama, and the supernatural, but Naono makes it work this time. Kaya Susugi is a cafe owner by day and a grave keeper by night who ends up taking in Tarou and Jiro Tsukihara, two werewolf brothers. Susugi is used to being alone but becomes very close with both of the brothers, but especially with Jiro who has fallen in love with him. I wasn’t expecting Three Wolves Mountain to become such a family affair, but parents, siblings, and even cousins all have their role to play in the story. Three Wolves Mountain is great stuff.

My Week in Manga: September 26-October 2, 2011

My News and Reviews

Last week I posted my review for Yoshitoki Oima’s Mardock Scramble, Volume 1 which begins the manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata’s SF Taisho award-winning series Mardock Scramble. Having read Haikasoru’s omnibus edition when it was released earlier this year, I can safely say that Oima’s version is a pretty good adaptation of the original so far. And because it was the end of the month, I also posted the most recent manga giveaway: Hikaru no Go Giveaway. The winner will be announced this Wednesday, so there’s still time to get your entries in!

And now onto the good stuff I’ve found online recently. To start off with, Deb Aoki has a great article/rant from a manga fan’s perspective responding to the DC Comics kerfuffle surrounding the portrayal of women in some of their recent reboots—Femme Fan Fury at DC 52: Confessions of a Former Superhero Comics Fan. Jason Thompson’s most recent House of 1000 Manga post features Oishinbo. I always enjoy this column, but I was particularly pleased to see Thompson write about Oishinbo since I happen to really like the series. (So far, I’ve reviewed the A la Carte volumes for Japanese Cuisine and Sake.) Oishinbo and food manga in general is currently scheduled for the Manga Moveable Feast to be held in February.

And speaking of the Manga Moveable Feast! September’s Feast, featuring Ken Akamatsu’s Love Hina, will actually be taking place beginning this week on October 5 and will run until October 12. This change in scheduling is in part due to  Kodansha Comics pushing back the release for the new edition of the series. Jason Green will be hosting at PLAYBACK:stl; more information can be found here. Don’t worry, October’s Feast is still happening, too! Lori Henderson at Manga Xanadu will be hosting the Horror Manga Moveable Feast from October 24 to October 31. I haven’t quite yet decided on what I’ll be doing, but I’ll definitely be participating.

Quick Takes

In These Words, Chapters 1-4 by Guilt | Pleasure. In These Words has actually been picked up by Libre Publishing in Japan and will be premiering in the October 2011 issue of BeBoy Gold. The story begins with a prose prologue (an extra scene that follows immediately after can be found online here) before the manga picks it up. It’s dark, and disturbing, and very well done. Katsuya has helped the police to profile and capture Shinohara, a sadist and serial murderer. The dialogue occasionally feels a bit awkward, but I absolutely adore Jo Chen’s artwork. She has a gorgeous sense of aesthetic. Her figure work and tones are marvelous. Warning: In These Words includes both torture and rape.

Yōkaiden, Volumes 1-2 by Nina Matsumoto. Yōkaiden was one of Del Rey’s ventures into original English-language manga. Only two volumes have been published, but they’re worth picking up. The series is delightfully charming and funny. The humor often breaks the fourth wall or introduces unexpected references or anachronistic elements. The story follows Hamachi, a nine-year-old boy who loves and is obsessed with yōkai. He’s a guileless and likeable protagonist who humans and yōkai alike think is just a little weird. The series is a fun introduction to yōkai and kami for audiences that aren’t well versed in the lore and it’s still a lot of fun for readers that are. I enjoyed the second volume even more than the first, so I certainly hope to see more of Yōkaiden published in the future.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 4-7 by Ai Morinaga. I believe Your & My Secret was completed at eight volumes, but only the first seven are available in English. I’d like to see how it ends, but I’m still torn as to whether or not I actually like the series. The character interactions are interesting and fortunately slightly less cruel than they were earlier. I still feel terrible for Akira, but was happy to see him start to stand up for himself a bit. The seventh volume has a flashback chapter where Akira and Nanako are in their original, “mismatched” bodies—maybe that’s the story that I really wanted to read. One thing that does impress me is how Morinaga takes the same character designs and makes the personalities so obviously different.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo directed by Mahiro Maeda. I have never seen anything like Gankutsuou. The unusual animation style won’t suit everyone; it’s disconcerting at first, and occasionally a bit overwhelming, but I loved it. It’s hard for me to describe, but it’s almost like a collage mixed with the paintings Gustav Klimt (I’m particularly thinking of “The Kiss”). The atmosphere of the series is ominous and intense; appropriate for a revenge tale. I’ll admit, I even cried at times. At first Albert is so naive and trusting that it’s almost painful, but he’s forced to change as his world falls apart around him. The twenty-four episodes are incredibly engaging and each and every one of them counts. Gankutsuou is easily one of my top anime series.

Tiger & Bunny, Episodes 21-25 directed by Keiichi Satou. The main reason I watch Tiger & Bunny is because I like Kotetsu so much. It’s a fun show with a great visual style, even if the CGI doesn’t always mesh very well with the hand drawn material. Unfortunately, the series seems to be plagued with lazy writing, inconsistencies in the NEXT powers and how exactly they work, villains with ambiguous motivations that make stupid mistakes, and missed opportunities to let the support cast shine. Okay, that just made it sound terrible, but it’s not all bad; the series has good stuff going for it, too. Even with its problems, I like Tiger & Bunny well enough that I’d seriously consider picking up the DVDs if we get them.

My Week in Manga: April 11-April 17, 2011

My News and Reviews

Probably just about everyone already knows about this but if not I’m sorry to break the news: Tokyopop is shutting down its North American publishing division. Tokyopop wasn’t my favorite manga publisher, but this still saddens me deeply. I’m especially frustrated because it seems like as soon as I got really interested and passionate about something (in this case, manga) the entire industry tanks. Tokyopop is not the first manga publisher to go under but it is one of the biggest. I believe the news was first broke by The Beat on Friday—End of an era: Tokyopop shutting down US publishing division. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic also has a great write up and index of related posts from around the web—A Few Thoughts About TOKYOPOP.

As for me, this past week I posted two reviews. The first was for Osamu Dazai’s very potent novel No Longer Human. Vertical will be releasing Usamaru Furuya’s manga adaptation of the novel later this year which I’m looking forward to reading. I also reviewed Death Note, Volume 9: Contact, making it my first in-depth manga review for April. There are only three more volumes in the series to go, and I’m interested in seeing how things turn out. Also, a reminder that the Rumiko Takahashi Manga Moveable Feast begins next week. I’ll be reading nothing but Rumiko Takahashi manga, watching InuYasha streaming on Netflix, giving away the first two volumes of Ranma 1/2, and reviewing in-depth the first volume of Mermaid Saga. It should be a good time.

Quick Takes

Princess Princess, Volume 1 by Mikiyo Tsuda. Princess Princess isn’t really a boys’ love manga, although it certainly has the potential and setup. The first volume was actually a bit better than I expected it to be, but I didn’t find it to be particularly outstanding. In an elite all-boys school, a few attractive first year students are selected to act as “Princesses,” becoming idols of the school and acting as a sort of cross-dressing cheerleader. Kouno is basically in it for the fringe benefits, Yutaka was forced into it, and Shihoudani seems to have come to actually enjoy it. Apparently, characters from Tsuda’s other works cross-over with Princess Princess but I haven’t actually read any of those involved.

X-Day, Volumes 1-2 by Setona Mizushiro. Polaris, 11, Mr. Money, and Jangalian first came together in a chatroom. Frustrated and fed up with life at their school, they decide to make it disappear, fantasizing and planning how to blow it up. I never got a really good handle on exactly who all of these characters were. I think that is somewhat the point, though. There are a few intense glimpses into their personal lives, but mostly the four of them are private people. Others, even those in their select group (at least to begin with), don’t realize or understand the depth of their personal struggles. But the four of them become a much needed support group for one other. Also included is an unrelated sidestory “The Last Supper.”

Yokai Doctor, Volumes 1-3 by Yuki Sato. I have recently developed a particular fondness for yokai, so I was looking forward to reading Yokai Doctor. I liked the premise—a boy raised by yokai reenters the human world while continuing to act and care for the yokai as their doctor with the granddaughter of an exorcist as his assistant. But, it’s just…boring and disappointing. The yokai, while cute, are generic. The constant boob jokes are tedious rather than amusing. Things start to get a bit more interesting plotwise and artwise in the third volume, but probably not enough for me to pursue the rest of the series if it’s released in English.

Your & My Secret, Volumes 1-3 by Ai Morinaga. I have mixed feelings about Your & My Secret. It seems as though Morinaga can’t quite decide whether to go for the comedy, the melodrama, or to address the gender issues involved more seriously. The excuse for Akira and Momoi’s personality/body/gender swap is a bit silly, but at least watching how everyone deals with it is interesting even if it is often extremely unfortunate. I feel bad for Akira since no one seems willing to recognize or care about how horribly he’s feeling about the whole situation. Also, why is it that every school festival must have a performance of Romeo and Juliet?